By Jonathan Okanes
Cal begins training camp for the 2008 football season in less than three weeks, and when the Bears take the Memorial Stadium field for their first practice on Aug. 4, they hope they've shored up the deficiency in intangibles that plagued them during the second half of last year.
Along with their usual strength and conditioning program, Cal has spent a lot of the offseason focusing on non-football issues such as leadership, discipline and commitment. To that end, coach Jeff Tedford employed the book "Talent is Never Enough" by leadership guru John Maxwell as a teaching tool, having each of his assistant coaches break down a chapter in a classroom setting.
"I started reading it and I found myself highlighting half of pages, or full pages. It was so relevant to what our situation was," Tedford said. "I felt like we needed to spend time on a lot of the things in the book and go back and redefine who we are. There were a lot of things that we needed to hear as a football program."
Maxwell, who has written several successful books on leadership, argues that simple talent will never translate into success unless other factors related to character and attitude are strong as well. In "Talent is Never Enough," Maxwell has chapters on belief, passion, initiative, focus, preparation, practice, perseverance, courage, teachability, character, relationships, responsibility and teamwork. Last season, few questioned the Bears had talent. That showed when they started 5-0 and ascended to No. 2 in the national rankings. But it also became clear that the talent wasn't enough when they lost six of their final seven regular-season games. "It's like the whole book was written for us," Cal center Alex Mack said. "It was odd to see us so talented and not doing well last year. I think it did a good job helping us redefine the culture of our team. It reminded us what goes into winning games. I think that kind of got away from us last season."
By the end of last season, most involved with Cal's program could see the team was lacking in such things as leadership, passion and trust. It resulted in a stunning collapse during the second half of the season that left college football observers across the country dumbfounded.
In his chapter on teamwork, Maxwell demonstrates the importance of some of these intangibles. He argues that teams don't simply come together on their own; that they require leadership to do so. He also claims that the more talented a team is, the more leadership is needed.
"I think every player got something out of this," Cal linebacker Zack Follett said. "I knew right from the beginning by seeing the looks on their faces. Everyone was paying attention and there was a lot of talk about it around the team." Tedford joked that he rarely received a book in the mail offering help during his first five years at Cal. After last season, "I had 15 books stacked up in my mailbox," he said. "Talent is Never Enough," actually was a gift from athletic director Sandy Barbour, who gave a copy of the book to each coach in the athletic department. "I just chose to put that one in my bag," Tedford said. "I got on a plane and started reading it, and there were just so many great things that I thought would be beneficial."